Innovation Among Pharmaceutical Manufacturers During COVID-19

Web Exclusives - AVBCC COVID-19 Webcast Series, COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

In a discussion titled Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, Burt Zweigenhaft, PhD, D.Litt, Founder and Co-Chair of AVBCC, gathered a panel of experts to address issues related to the changes being made by pharmaceutical manufacturers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Mark Hagler, MBA, Senior Vice President, Business Unit Head, US Oncology, Sun Pharma, opened with a summary of the adaptations made in his organization. He said that his company has had only minimal product disruption because it worked to increase stock with partners. Mr Hagler acknowledged that cash flow has become a problem for some of the customers, and they are extending payment terms where possible. He noted the significance of telemedicine, a recurring theme in the webinar series.  “Telemedicine is here to stay,” he said.

Roy Baynes, MD, PhD, Head, Global Clinical Development, Chief Medical Officer, Merck Research Laboratories, discussed clinical research and late-stage production in the midst of the global pandemic and the impact of the crisis on cancer care and therapeutics. His company also continues to work with an “eye to the worldwide effort to support investigative studies,” although the pandemic precludes many patients from participating in clinical trials. However, they try to “maintain clinical study continuity and strive to ensure that a clinical research trial is available wherever possible as a therapeutic option.” 

“We are open for business and strive to leave no patient behind,” said Dr Baynes.

Rena Goins, Executive Director, Global Trade, GPO, & Distribution, Regeneron Healthcare Solutions, also cited the emphasis on delivering therapy to patients, but noted that the location of delivery is fluid. “Paramount to all of this is the patient focus,” she said.

Ms Goins noted that 2 important modifications to policy have been the rapid acceptance of telemedicine by payers and allowing patients to have more than 30 days’ worth of medicine at a time.

Bryon Wornson, VP, Oncology Patient and Health Impact Lead, Pfizer, echoed remarks made by other panelists. He said that his organization has also worked to safeguard the well-being of employees by going virtual. He noted that manufacturing and supply chains are not seeing any disruption in supply channels.

Mr Wornson also introduced the topic of a vaccine, which, he said, Pfizer is “fast-tracking.”

A vaccine will be central to returning to “whatever the new normal looks like,” he said.

Bruce Wilson, Head, Access Strategy – US Oncology, AstraZeneca, said that his company is also working diligently on finding a vaccine and, importantly, also trying to understand how to supply a vaccine in the large quantities that will be necessary.

Panelists also discussed the philanthropic efforts of their respective companies and outlined some of the accommodations they have made to ensure that patients can stay on their medicines even if they are unemployed.

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Last modified: May 11, 2020